Why does the word networking create fear within many accomplished creative people, in particular architects?

There often appears to be a shrinking back among these professionals from the person they truly are. The woman who can achieve brilliant designs, layouts and client appeal in a home or building suddenly becomes nervous and anxious when asked to speak about their practice, expertise and passion.

It seems in the creative professions, many are stymied when it comes to getting their brand out. When faced with the prospect of networking, many will say such things as: “do I have to do this?” or “I don’t know how to talk about my work” or “people will not be interested.”

In a nutshell, networking is about authentic communication within organizations that excite and inspire; it is not about addressing low level groups with boring pitches.

Many put this reticence down to having to “bare their souls.” Many fear negative comments, or simply do not know how to communicate work that comes from the heart and at times defies language. Design, and the world of architecture, many times are beyond language.

The architectural profession needs women who believe in their work, and who have a mindset that supports this thinking. There has not been a better time to encourage a renaissance of female creatives, architects in particular, to proliferate networking events and create harmonious diversity. The business and professional world needs strong women to challenge and ask questions of this world. Why do we live and work in buildings many times that are poorly designed and have a dark depressive energy? It is important to educate these people who many times are totally unaware of working and living conditions due to their non-stop business ethics. Think about how you could change their world, and that of their co-workers and families, when you help them to understand and pause to feel and see the fruit of great design and architecture.

Do women architects feel pressured by their male colleagues who are able to go into these events full of confidence and plenty of self-worth, while women stand on the sidelines? Is the “boys’ club” or the “bow tie brigade” alive and thriving in the world of design? And what do women have to contribute toward this state of affairs?

They have plenty to offer, but without trying hard it is not difficult to opt out of networking events that showcase projects and leave it up to the boys. So women, now is time to break the cycle and make a concerted effort to get out there and start networking. Stop your negative thought patterns. Yes, you might have a tough time communicating at the first few events, but similar to learning how to ride a bike, you fall off, get back on, and eventually can zip off and ride on the road.

Even if you attend networking events regularly, look at how you can create a story that wows people every time and keeps them asking for more. By doing so, they’ll want to come back and learn about your work and expertise.

Think of the Suffragettes many years ago. These women were gutsy individuals who worked together to change the world for women. As a former New Zealander, I am proud of them. The change started in this tiny country at the bottom of the earth, and spread rapidly to encourage other women to stand up for their rights and keep persevering against all odds.

So get out of your comfort zone and choose the networking events wisely, do not stay stuck. And do not let the “boys’ club” stop you, as this excuse is ancient and tired.